The announcement in September 2013 that the LDS Church would be publishing a transcript of the Council of Fifty minutes came as welcome news to the Mormon scholarly community. Previously considered confidential and kept in the First Presidency's vault, the record had been unavailable for reading and research for 160 years. This secrecy had two consequences: debate and speculation among the scholarly community about the record's contents, and complete ignorance of the council among most average Church members. But at long last, the transcript was published in 2016 as the sole volume in the Administrative Records series of the Joseph Smith Papers: The Joseph Smith Papers, Administrative Records: Council of Fifty Minutes, March 1844–January 1846, ed. Matthew J. Grow and others (Salt Lake City: The Church Historian's Press).
While the publication is a welcome and valuable addition to the corpus of publicly available documents on Church history, it is likely difficult for most readers to comb through the eight-hundred-page tome (complete with over one thousand footnotes) and glean what is new and important in the record. The solution? A compilation of fifteen essays, written by historians for a broad audience, on the new insights found in the Council of Fifty minutes.